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J Clin Microbiol. 2005 May;43(5):2380-3.

Genetic background affects stability of mecA in Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • 1Department of Bacteriology, Fuculty of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo Japan.


The staphylococcal methicillin resistance determinant, mecA, resides on a mobile genetic element, staphylococcus chromosomal cassette mec (SCCmec). The distribution of SCCmec in nature is limited to relatively few clonal complexes of related methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). We have previously reported that some genetic backgrounds are restrictive of mecA and penicillin-binding protein 2a expression, which could account for the restricted clonal distribution of SCCmec in nature. In this study, we investigate the potential role of the host chromosome in the transformability and expression of mecA in 103 naturally occurring methicillin-susceptible S. aureus clinical isolates. The isolates, which had been genotyped previously by multilocus sequence typing, were classified into one of two mutually exclusive categories based on whether the isolates belonged to "major" MRSA lineages or to "other" lineages that are never or occasionally MRSA. We introduced mecA expressed on the low-copy-number plasmid pYK20 into each MSSA strain and assayed the phenotype of resistance to nafcillin by population analysis to assess the relationship between the stability of mecA expression and genetic background. Strains from the major MRSA lineages were more transformable with pYK20 and better able to maintain the plasmid and express resistance in comparison to strains from other lineages. These data support the hypothesis that the presence of mecA within relatively few clonal complexes is partly due to genetic factors that are permissive of mecA and its gene product.

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